Abstract This study examines the relationships between patient characteristics and surrogate decision maker characteristics on surrogates' preferences for life-sustaining treatments. Caucasian and African-American caregivers and noncaregivers (n=110) responded to a vignette involving a medical crisis in a hospitalized older man who suffered cardiac arrest, one of the most common causes of death among older Americans. This man was described as either a cognitively intact or moderately demented family member. Participants made decisions regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), CPR and ventilation, and CPR and tube feeding. Analyses followed a 2 (cognitive status) 2 (caregiving status) 2 (racial background) analysis of covariance design, with education and income used as covariates. In general, participants were less likely to initiate life-sustaining treatments in demented patients. Caucasian caregivers were less likely to initiate CPR and ventilation and CPR and tube feeding. Results indicate that characteristics of the patient and the interplay between cultural issues and experience with caregiving affect surrogate judgements regarding life-sustaining treatments.